South Koreans launch largest lawsuit ever in Hungary over Budapest riverboat disaster

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A Hungarian law firm launched the country’s largest ever damages claim trial at the Budapest Central Court in the name of the victims of a sightseeing boat whose 26 South Korean passengers drowned after an accident just south of the Hungarian Parliament building on the Danube.

On the evening of May 29, 2019, in low visibility due to pouring rain, the sightseeing boat Hableány (Mermaid) was rammed by the several times larger Swiss-owned Viking Sygin river cruise ship, and the smaller vessel sank in less than a minute at the foot of the Margaret Bridge. Rescue efforts were hampered by the cold and rain and 26 South Korean tourists and three Hungarian crew lost their lives.

The Oppenheim law firm submitted a 900-page legal claim against both the operator of the destroyed sightseeing boat, Panoráma Deck Kft., and that of the river cruise ship which caused the accident.

The trial is expected to drag on for some time since the criminal trial of the Ukrainian captain of the river cruise boat is still ongoing and the culpability of the two captains has yet to be established.

Zsolt Sógor, legal representative of the Hungarian operator, told Magyar Nemzet that while the claim document is long, it does not necessarily reflect any shipping expertise. If obliged to pay the demanded compensation, the Hungarian company will certainly go bankrupt, and it is also highly doubtful that it will ever be able to raise that much money since that would require a bank loan no financial institution would approve. 

Title image: Wreck of the river cruise Hableány (Mermaid) lifted from the Danube river on its Budapest stretch. (MTI/Péter Lakatos)

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